Peer Review of Teaching Project
Amy Nelson Burnett
The Visible Knowledge Project
This newsletter exists to promote scholarly approaches to the teaching and learning of history throughout the world. The editor welcomes contributions that report recent happenings, note current trends, and identify emerging issues. Direct inquiries to the society. The newsletter is sponsored by the History Department at Indiana University and is the official newsletter of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in History.
The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning History in Britain
By Alan Booth, University of Nottingham
In Britain there has been a long tradition of discussion about the teaching and learning of the subject in higher education, though this has often occurred on the margins of disciplinary life rather than in the mainstream of its public discourse. New ways of thinking about the teaching of the subject can be seen in developments from T. F. Tout’s work on undergraduate projects and seminars in the first decade of the twentieth century to the emergence, in the late 1960s and early 70s, of the learner-centred approaches pioneered in the “history workshop movement” and in the resources produced by the newly-established Open University. However, such initiatives often remained localised.
In the 1980s and 1990s, government attempts to encourage “enterprise and innovation” in British higher education began to foster broader and more sustained activity. Initiatives such as Enterprise in Higher Education (EHE), the Computers in Teaching Initiative (CTI) and the Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL) created hitherto unavailable funding. They also enabled historians to form national networks, such as the Computers in Teaching Initiative Centre for Computing and History (CTICH) and “History 2000” (a first-round FDTL project), in which to discuss teaching and learning more seriously and to attempt to raise the profile of teaching and learning within the discipline. In 2000, historians involved in CTICH and History 2000 came together to bid successfully to establish the Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN) Subject Centre for History, Classics and Archaeology, one of twenty-four national centres established by government funding to promote pedagogic development. Since 2004 this has become the Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for History, Classics and Archaeology.
This process of establishing networks of historians interested in the teaching and learning of history in higher education created the impetus for the emergence of a more substantive literature on history pedagogy in a discipline that places considerable emphasis upon “scholarship.” Some key publications aimed at fostering further investigation, including two collections edited by Alan Booth and Paul Hyland, and two recent monographs by Booth and by Geoff Timmins, Keith Vernon, and Christine Kinealy.1 Academic historians have also produced a growing number of articles on the issues of how history might best be taught and learned in the context of the mass system of higher education that has developed in Britain in the last twenty-five years.
For most of the 1990s this literature, like much of the research in Britain on student learning, developed in some isolation from its counterpart in North America. British scholarship focused generally upon promoting investigation, pedagogic innovation, and “reflective practice.” Meanwhile, in the United States Ernest Boyer, Eugene Rice, and Lee Shulman began to advocate a broader conception of “scholarship of teaching and learning” that moved beyond simple discovery research in order to use such scholarship as a platform to give greater weight to teaching and to encourage academics to consider their teaching as seriously as their research. In the late 1990s their work began to be assimilated and the term “the scholarship of teaching and learning” entered the lexicon of history teaching and learning in Britain.
For the past decade, growing numbers of British historians have promoted development in the teaching and learning of history, particularly through the annual “History in Higher Education” conference organized by the Subject Centre. The conferences have drawn historians from a number of countries, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Sweden, and British historians have already greatly benefited from this international discussion. With the organization of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in History it is hoped that historians across the world will be better able to share their experiences and enhance their practice as teachers, to build capacity for further research and investigation, and to work together as colleagues to develop the scholarship of history teaching and learning in new and exciting ways.
1. Alan Booth and Paul Hyland, eds., History in Higher Education: New Directions in Teaching and Learning (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996); Booth and Hyland, eds., The Practice of University History Teaching (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2000); Booth, Teaching History at University: Enhancing Learning and Understanding (London: Routledge, 2003); Geoff Timmins, Keith Vernon, and Christine Kinealy, Teaching and Learning History (London: Sage Publications, 2005); Booth, “Rethinking the Scholarly: Developing the Scholarship of Teaching in History,” Arts & Humanities in Higher Education, 3 (2004), 247-66.
The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning History in Australia
By Sean Brawley, University of New South Wales
Reflecting broader trends in higher education, historians working in Australia ‘s universities, tended to pursue intuitive and collegial approaches to the study of teaching and learning in their discipline. From the mid-1990s, more historians took a more scholarly approach to teaching and learning as part of the formalisation of study in higher education teaching and professional development opportunities. While some idea sharing occurred in the discipline’s journals and at conferences, such efforts generally received little recognition and support.
The efforts of the Australian Federal Government to improve teaching and learning in the nation’s universities and the decision to tie some Commonwealth funding to verifiable results through quality assurance frameworks and the newly created Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education prompted universities to be more supportive of initiatives in teaching and learning and to increase their support of professional development opportunities. A number of historians featured in the 2006 Carrick Awards for University Teaching.
Most of these developments in the last 5-7 years have been based at university, rather than at departmental level and have therefore been of a more generic nature. While historians around the country have been involved in these processes, the discipline in and of itself has been slow to act at the tertiary level. This fact stands in very sharp contrast to the initiatives of Australian school teachers who have made great progress with discipline-based initiatives such as the National Centre for History Education and the History Educators Network of Australia. The National Centre invites strong involvement from academic historians and focuses on primary and secondary teaching. The Network boasts that it was formed specifically to build alliances with tertiary institutions and school systems but to date the traffic seems to be flowing only in one direction.
The peak body for historians in Australia, the Australian Historical Association, has yet to fully embrace the recent developments in the scholarship of learning and teaching as they might apply to the discipline in this country. While the Association remains some way behind its American cousin, progress is being made. At the 2005 International Congress of the Historical Sciences (CISH), the editor of the AHA’s journal, History Australia, Professor Marian Quartly of Monash University, encouraged historians working in Australia to consider the journal as a site for the publication of articles on the scholarship of teaching and learning in history. The results of this active call have yet to be seen but offer a promising development. It should be noted that the Constitution of the AHA does make several references to encouraging and supporting “teaching” amongst its mostly academic membership. Additionally, the Carrick Institute recently developed a “Discipline Based Initiative” which seeks to encourage “discipline-specific development, dissemination and application of good practice” through a funding support of projects. The first closing date for applications passed in July 2006, and though I am unsure if any historians applied, the scheme does provide an opportunity to produce the types of synergies and critical mass that the discipline-based groupings of the British Higher Education Academy are achieving.
There are some impediments to the development of a discipline-based approach to teaching and learning among historians in Australia. First, the nation’s historians have often been constructed as providing much of the ammunition that new left elites use to attack the conservative Howard Government. Recent pronouncements by the prime minister and the minister for education clearly continue the trend of marginalizing the work of academic historians. History departments have been victims in Australia’s “history wars.” The most recent blow came in the relegation of history in the new funding formula in the humanities and social sciences, which now directs to history only three-fifths of the amount of funding received by politics and three-sevenths of that received by education. While most universities currently absorb such differences in faculty budgets, the probable result will be fewer academic historians in Australian universities. Further, the rationalisation of arts faculties in the last decade has seen most stand-alone history departments dissolved into larger multi-disciplinary units. Such developments do have consequences on teaching and learning in specific disciplines and do break down the connections between academic historians. The irony in all of these developments lies in the federal government’s recent announcements of its desire to see more Australian history taught in the nation’s schools; a desire which will be difficult for the harassed university historians to deliver.
The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning History in the United States
By David Pace, Indiana University
Historians in the United States have undoubtedly been thinking about how students learn about the past as long as history has been taught, and by the late 1960s and early 1970s they were beginning to share their efforts to increase student learning in publications such as The History Teacher. But it was only in 1990 with the publication of Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate by Ernest Boyer and his associates at the Carnegie Foundation that the term “scholarship of teaching” entered the mainstream of American academia. In 1995 Robert B. Barr and John Tagg’s “From Teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education” gave voice to the widespread concern with student learning, and the emerging field came to be referred to most commonly as “the scholarship of teaching and learning.” 1
The last ten years have seen a remarkable flowering of work in this new area of research. The Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning led two cohorts of historians into the field, resulting directly in the publication of two programmatic essays on the application of the scholarship of teaching and learning to history.2 The American Historical Association participated in an initiative to create model Preparing Future Faculty Programs, many of which made training in the scholarship of teaching and learning an integral part of their Ph.D. programs. Historians have worked with scholars from other fields to develop the genre of the course portfolio, which provides new ways to make knowledge about teaching public. Work centered in the Visible Knowledge Project and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University helped illuminate the intersection of history, teaching, and new technologies. The History Department at Indiana University has received support to interview historians about the kinds of operations required in upper level courses and to create and assess teaching strategies that assist with the mastery of these skills. Finally, the publication of collections such as Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History (2000) and Sam Wineburg’s Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts (2001) brought larger numbers of historians in the United States into contact with the rich body of theory on the process of learning history that had been recently generated by educational researchers and with the efforts of their colleagues in other nations to grapple with the intellectual demands of teaching their subject.3
A caucus of historians at the November 2005 meetings of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL) at Vancouver expressed the desire for some form of network to support this work, and independently historians in Australia and the United Kingdom began to contact their American counterparts with similar ideas. Historians from the United States participated in discussions about the creation of an international society at the 8th Annual Conference on History in Higher Education, University of Oxford and in the realization of that dream at the ISSOTL meetings in Washington, D.C., in November 2006. Meanwhile, the Dean of Faculties Office of Indiana University had provided financial support for the creation of this web site and newsletter.
1. Ernest L. Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (Princeton, N.J.: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Education, 1990); Robert B. Barr and John Tagg, “From Teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education,” Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 27, no. 6 (Nov-Dec 1995), 13-25.
2. Lendol Calder, William W. Cutler III, and T. Mills Kelly, “History Lessons: Historians and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning,” in Disciplinary Styles in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Exploring Common Ground, edited by Mary Taylor Huber and Sherwyn P. Morreale (Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education and The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 2002), 45-67; David Pace, “The Amateur in the Operating Room: History and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning,” American Historical Review 109, no. 4 (October 2004), 1171-91.
3. Peter N. Stearns, Peter Seixas, and Sam Wineburg, eds., Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History: National and International Perspectives (New York: New York University Press, 2000); Sam Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2001).
Formation of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in History
By Geoff Timmins, University of Central Lancashire
In recent years, interest in the scholarship of teaching and learning in history has assumed growing importance in Britain, Australia, and the United States. At the same time, the desire has emerged amongst higher education historians to collaborate on learning and teaching matters across national boundaries. This article outlines the way in which their endeavours have come to fruition in forming the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in History. Along with articles concerning developments in history learning and teaching in individual countries, it helps to mark the inauguration of the Society’s website and on-line newsletter.
At the second conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL) held in October 2005 at Vancouver, a group of fifteen historians teaching in the United States and Britain met over a convivial lunch. Rallied by David Pace of Indiana University, the group considered ways of furthering its interests and activities with regard to the scholarship of teaching and learning in history. Here, several possibilities concerning the type of activities in which the group might be engaged were identified, including forming a history section within ISSOTL; creating a list of reviewers for works on SoTL in history; preparing a newsletter or other publications on SoTL in higher education and history; disseminating information about SoTL matters; and lobbying the AHA to move SoTL research from its “teaching” to its “research” portfolio. (Leah Shopkow of Indiana University kindly recorded and supplied the above details.)
Shortly following the conference, T. Mills Kelly of George Mason University, one of the “Vancouver 15,” announced that he had established a new blog, EdWired. The site already contains much thought-provoking material, especially in relation to Information and Communications Technology (ICT) matters.
Meanwhile, Sean Brawley, senior lecturer in history at the University of New South Wales, approached The International Committee of Historical Sciences (ICHS), also known as le Comité International des Sciences Historiques (CISH). This organization has established International Commissions specializing in particular fields of history. Sean suggested a new commission should be inaugurated dealing with teaching and learning in history that might perform a range of international functions, including increasing opportunities for dialogue between historians on learning and teaching matters and for collaboration on areas of joint interest. Despite Sean’s best efforts, however, CISH proved less than wholehearted in creating the proposed commission, in part because of a mistaken view that it would clash with the activities of existing commissions.
Further organisational development occurred at the Eighth Annual History in Higher Education Conference, hosted by the Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for History, Classics, and Archaeology at Oxford University, England, in April 2006. As usual, the conference not only attracted delegates from Britain, but also from various parts of the world, including North America, Australasia, and mainland Europe. Conference planners Paul Hyland and Alan Booth arranged several opportunities for delegates to debate the desirability of supporting the formation of an international organisation, and, if support was forthcoming, the purposes and types of activities of such an organisation. Issues raised included the importance that such an organisation might have in relation to furthering the interests of its members and in raising the profile of learning and teaching in history at degree level. However, concerns were raised about how far such an organisation might divert energy away from other desirable ends, especially that of building bridges between history teachers working at different levels of education.
Conference delegates expressed sufficient interest for the organisation to progress and in the final discussion they agreed that a working party should be formed to seek gradually to achieve wider involvement from all interested parties. An email list of non-UK participants was created to provide international contact points and to form stronger international links with those who had previously attended Subject Centre Conferences. It was agreed to discuss and prioritise the aims of the organisation, recognising both the heavy demands it might place on people and the need to avoid dilution of effort. Agreement was also reached to seek a larger group of potential members, including postgraduate students, whose role in an international society should be determined. David Pace announced that Leah Shopkow, Arlene Diaz, and he had secured funding to establish a web site at Indiana University which would be devoted to learning and teaching in history. The site offered a home for the crucial virtual dimension of the organisation’s activities, enabling it to cater meaningfully for a far wider membership. Finally, it was decided that Geoff Timmins of the University of Central Lancashire would coordinate plans to create an international society.
At the 2006 ISSOTL conference held in Washington, D.C., Alan Booth, Sean Brawley, Keith A. Erekson, T. Mills Kelly, David Pace, and Geoff Timmins met to solidify previous deliberations, and later hosted a lunch for all interested historians at the conference. Following discussion with ISSOTL president Barbara Cambridge, the assembled historians decided to form this International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in History, an affiliate group of ISSOTL. (ISSOTL is still in process of giving formal recognition to the group and of drawing up guidelines for affiliate groups.)
The society will seek to promote SoTL activities within history, encompassing such broadly-defined activities as research relating to learning and teaching, discussion on learning and teaching approaches, and the development and sharing of teaching resources. It will be concerned to raise the profile of learning and teaching in history in higher education, keeping the career aspirations of its members in mind. It will endeavour to reach out to as broad a constituency as possible, working with ISSOTL regional representatives to draw in scholars from other parts of the world as opportunity arises. A key function of the society will be to act as a resource for SoTL activities in which its members are engaged. These activities will be reported in various ways, including an occasional on-line newsletter. The society will be led by a steering committee and an advisory committee, the former being responsible for generating, organising, and promoting its activities and the latter acting as a point of reference when guidance is required, as well as serving as an additional resource on which the group can draw in undertaking its activities. These aims will be realised through sessions organised at international conferences and though the society’s official website.
Peer Review of Teaching Project
Contributed by Amy Nelson Burnett, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Good teaching can be difficult to evaluate. Traditional methods of classroom observation and student evaluation provide information about a teacher’s activities and popularity, but fail to reveal important elements about student learning and effective teaching—such as the planning and overall organization of a course. The course portfolio provides one way to make hidden elements of effective teaching visible for evaluation, assessment, and reward.
The Peer Review of Teaching Project at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has assisted almost 150 faculty members in writing portfolios for target courses. These teachers report that the process of writing a portfolio has helped them to clarify their goals, to evaluate the effectiveness of their pedagogical methods, and to document their students’ learning. The project website serves as a repository for portfolios written by faculty from institutions around the world. The portfolios are searchable by institution, author, and keyword, as well as by teaching environment (classroom, laboratory, etc.), type and size of course, and student activities.
Analysis of the collected portfolios has resulted in a book by Daniel Bernstein, Amy Nelson Burnett, Amy Goodburn, and Paul Savory, Making Teaching and Learning Visible: Course Portfolios and the Peer Review of Teaching (2006) that provides guidelines for writing a course portfolio. The elements of a course portfolio are described in more depth in an article in the October 2006 issue of Perspectives, “A Template for Writing a Course Portfolio to Document Teaching.”
We encourage everyone to browse the course portfolios currently available, and we welcome the submission of additional course portfolios to the site. More information about how to submit is available on the website.
The Visible Knowledge Project
Contributed by Michael Coventry, Georgetown University
The Visible Knowledge Project was a five-year (2000-2005) scholarship of teaching project designed to explore the impact of technology on learning in the fields of American culture and history. The project engaged 70 faculty—many of whom are founding members of ISSOTL-H—from 21 different institutions, including three community colleges, four public comprehensive universities, three public research universities, and four private research universities.
Project members asked questions such as: How do novices and experts read texts and images, especially as new technologies transform reading practices? How do students construct knowledge, express themselves, and build arguments through the use of new media? How do students share and build knowledge through both online and face-to-face communication? In other words, we spent five years studying reading, writing, and discussion.
Preliminary statements of project findings are available through the Visible Knowledge Project website and especially the online “gallery.” A volume of essays by participants is expected later this year. In addition, a few of the Americanists within the project collaborated on an article for the Journal of American History detailing our research into teaching students to read images as historical texts and to use multimedia to create historical knowledge.
The project’s staff operated from the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown University. The project was co-led by Randy Bass (American Studies and CNDLS, Georgetown University) and Bret Eynon (History and Center for Teaching Excellence, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY).
Membership in ISSOTL-H is free! Members will receive the regular newsletter and be able to participate in online, international conversations about history teaching and learning via the website. To subscribe, go to the society home page and click on the “Register” link under the “Meta” heading at bottom right. On the new screen, enter a username (this cannot be changed later) and your email address. That’s it! Welcome to the society. You will be automatically added to the newsletter subscription list. Additionally, a password will be sent to the email address you provided. With this password you will be able to login to this website. Those who join before July 1, 2007, will be counted as founding members of the society.
Post a Query or Comment on the Society’s Website
Are you designing a research project on the teaching and learning of history? Do you want to know if someone else in the world is working on a similar project? Would you like feedback on your ideas? Are you looking for someone to join you in proposing a session for a conference? If so, join HistorySOTL and post a query. After joining the society you will receive a password at the email address you provide. From the society home page, click on the “Login” link at bottom right. On the next page, you will be asked for your username and the password. Once logged in, you will be able to modify your user profile by adding your name, website, and a brief description. When you are finished, click on “Update Profile” at the bottom right, then on “View site” on the top left.
Contribute Information to the Website
This website is in the earliest phase of its existence. While we have some plans for our continued development, we need your help. Let us know if you are willing to serve as an external reviewer for journals, publishing houses, or tenure and promotion committees. Tell us about your research project and the problems that interest you. Describe your departmental program for training Ph.D. students and send us the syllabus you use to teach them. Share with us announcements about relevant conferences, funding, or publishing opportunities.